Following Marco Rubio's announcement that he's running for president, the Associated Press decided to "fact check" some of the candidate's rhetoric. If you follow the news, you're probably aware that "fact checking" is more often than not a lame attempt to cloak partisan opinion behind a veil of irrelevant contextual details. On Thursday, the AP really outdid itself in terms of pure hackish nonsense.
Here is the first claim the that AP's Steve Peoples decided to "fact check":
RUBIO: "Too many of our leaders and their ideas are stuck in the 20th century."
THE FACTS: On foreign policy, taxes and government spending, many of Rubio's policies are rooted in Republican positions from the 1990s or even earlier.
How in the world is Rubio's clear statement of opinion a fact that could be objectively checked? And how does the fact that Rubio supports policies that have longstanding partisan support contravene what he said in any way? If there's even one outdated 20th century law still on the books that's doing more harm than good, that's too many! And guess what, if you combed through the 80,000 pages of the Federal Register I bet we could find more than a few outdated policies -- many of which even have a great deal of support in Washington for reasons that have nothing to do with whether the law benefits the vast majority of citizens.
The premise is so ridiculous, it's hard to imagine it as a launching pad for any honest discussion. But Steve Peoples has column inches to fill, so we get paragraphs of nitpicking such as this:
Rubio is also calling for sweeping changes to entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security to control government spending. While the push for "premium supports" to control Medicare costs was born this century, pieces of Rubio's plans to change Social Security are decades old. Specifically, he would repeal the "earnings test" for anyone who claims Social Security before full retirement age but keeps working.
So part of his entitlement reform plan is new, but part of it isn't, ergo Rubio is (partially) stuck in the 20th century. Clearly this is not about facts, this is about straining to accuse Rubio of hypocrisy. I can picture the attack ad now: "Marco Rubio says, 'Too many of our leaders and their ideas are stuck in the 20th century.' But Marco Rubio supports the Bill of Rights, a series of laws that date all the way back to the 18th century! Can we really trust Marco Rubio when he says he's offering new solutions?"
This brings us to the second claim deemed worthy of examining:
RUBIO: "Our leaders put us at a disadvantage by taxing, borrowing and regulating like it's 1999."
THE FACTS: While Rubio was surely trying to have fun with a popular Prince song, he's wrong to liken the government's current taxing and borrowing to that of 1999.
Translation: One of the most influential news organizations on the planet is acknowledging Rubio wasn't being literal -- but heaven forfend a young Republican bring a little levity by making a pop culture reference!
It's 2012 all over again, when the dishonesty that "fact checkers" engaged in to attack Romney 2012 was breathtaking. Rubio and others in the GOP field need to be prepared to respond to the inevitable mendacious parsing of their words. And they ought to start today, by calling up the AP newsroom and letting them know these kinds of unprofessional and wildy inaccurate "fact checks" won't be tolerated.
UPDATE: ...and because media fact checkers can't even be original in their idiocy, PolitiFact also decided to fact check Rubio's Prince reference.